The Tampa Bay Lightning, the league’s best team, come into Bridgestone Arena tonight. To help shed some light on the Lightning’s season so far, we connected with Achariya, the managing editor of RawCharge.com, SB Nation’s Lightning affiliate.
I answered some questions about the Preds over at their site. Check em out!
Quite a start for the Lightning this year! What is your assessment of the team’s performance so far?
Hello and thank you, fellow southern hockey team blog. You are seeing us during the first crisis in the season so far -- Bolts have lost three of their last four, and Coach Jon Cooper has called out the team and said they were playing in an “entitled” way. Winning 31 games is not the same as making the playoffs, and even before the injury to Victor Hedman, the cracks in the Bolts’ seams were starting to show. For one thing, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s early season excellence was hiding a lot of defensive mistakes, and now that he’s getting a little tired, some of the cracks (like the D-corps behind Hedman) are beginning to show. Bolts can’t keep relying on Hedman; Mikhail Sergachev is a youngster with a lot still to prove; Anton Stralman is amazing but he can’t be everywhere at once. The rest of the D are [poop emoji], especially with Jake Dotchin making increasing numbers of errors. -- Mind sharing a few of your defensive corps with us? We’d be glad to take your third-pair guy PK Subban off your hands.
What’s the latest on Ondrej Palat’s injury and when do you expect him to return to the lineup?
If you haven’t seen the gif of what happened yet, it was due to an awkward fall after a high-sticking by Jared Spurgeon.
We’re thinking it’s likely an injury to his right foot, but hard to say from that video. The prognosis is, six to eight weeks. So ****.
You are allowed to award the Hart Trophy to either Kucherov or Stamkos. Who do you pick and why?
Hockey is such a militantly self-effacing game that when asked, they’d both pick the other player, and I think I’ll choose both. I can’t? Then Nikita Kucherov, because Russians are massively underrepresented in the Hart race, and it almost never goes to a winger.
That Sergachev-Drouin trade is looking like a mighty fine one for the Lightning... what does Mikhail Sergachev bring to the blueline?
TBL was able to give Sergachev protected minutes when everyone was healthy. Now that Hedman is injured, he’s needing to take harder matchups. Occasionally he’ll show the sound sense and offensive skill he had early on. But now he’s showing where he needs to learn, which is in playing a careful game without mistakes. When he can be sheltered he can show his offensive skills -- part of why he’s in the top ten in defenseman points in the league right now -- but Lightning have a profound need for him to play a more cautious game until Hedman returns from injury.
Are you keeping your early June plans open? Picked out a parade watching spot yet?
TBL tends to be fragile when injuries hit; they were last season. I was figuring out what blue cocktail dress to wear to the SCF when Hedman went down, and then I thought: Oh, ****. TBL thrives on two solid-verging-on-elite goaltenders, two to three world-class defensemen, and nine talented forwards. When any of this balance is off, they can’t recover like the Penguins. The team gets hesitant on the ice, and I think you’ll see this in Nashville. Especially because we’ll be playing the second half of a back-to-back. If the team can somehow figure out a balance with the Syracuse Crunch players, goalie Louis Domingue, Adam Erne, Matthew Peca, and Michael Bournival, you might see the high-speed offensive swagger come back.
Thank you for asking!